Saturday, February 27, 2010

The downside

Almost anywhere you live, you have to learn to cope with the hand that mother nature deals. Here in Texas, it is hostile heat, hurricanes and tornadoes, potential flooding, and every poisonous creepy-crawly imaginable.

Today, the world has seen the downside of sorts of living in Chile, where we will be living in a few short months, if all goes according to our lack-of-plan: they have earthquakes.

Chile is a land of quakes, located in what is called the "ring of fire." While I was living there a decade ago, I experienced several tremors, but nothing big enough to be very frightening. The biggest earthquake mechanically registered, a 9.5, ocurred in Chile in 1960, a little south of today's epicenter. The last big quake was back in '85 and there has long been talk of "the big one" that was overdue. After the Haiti quake, I had actually been thinking of Chile and a big quake and wondering if there was something seismic was going on that might, in some way, trigger an event in Chile soon (I don't know if seismic activity works that way).

We got a phone call this morning as we were just starting to putter about. I thought it was a birthday greeting for Nico, who turned two today. It was my father-in-law calling to let us know, before we had even heard the news, that they were all fine (and to wish Nico a happy birthday).

As we started watching footage, the magnitude of the quake hit us. An 8.8 at the epicenter, an 8.2 in Santiago, almost 200 miles to the northreports indicate that it is about 500 times (one report said 900 times) the force of the Haiti earthquake. However, in many regards it will not be nearly as bad as the Haiti quake. The quake in Haiti hit a densely populated but very poor area in a country that has not had to deal with quakes on a regular basis for decades. Chile, accustomed to the seismic activity, has put strict building codes into practice in the past few decades. Chile is also a fairly developed country, with a solid infrastructure and a seemingly adecuate response to disaster.

With that said, it was an 8.8! Which is huge, so there is a lot of damage. I have heard some reports of smaller towns, mainly constructed with adobe, have been almost leveled. I have been most impacted by some the photos of freeway overpasses and bridges that have collapsed and some of the buildings split in two.

I am relieved that family and friends (as far as I have heard) have fared pretty well. I am sad for the loss of life, already over 200; it will climb some, but it will not even come close to the overwhelming 200,000 lost in Haiti.

Watching the news and hearing the commentary on Chile and its capacity to handle something of this magnitude makes me proud for my second country. With that said, this is one of those times when the sensationalism of the news irks me a little. There is destruction, to be sure, but I like the perspective offered here.

There are some photos here that give a sense of some of the damage done.

So, send a little prayer out to Chile tonight, for the people who have lost loved ones and homes and hope for a speedy recovery.


mosey said...

I love Liz's perspective on seeing the positive in the midst of what most would see as a negative.

And so so glad that your family there is okay.

Danielle said...

I'm so glad they're okay too!!! I can't fathom the destruction. Devastating.